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Senior Center volunteer saw USA from cab of truck

Retired truck driver Florence Jackson (center) displays an old family photo as she chats with John Ulrich (left) and Holly Saunders of the Huntington County Senior Center, where Jackson now volunteers.
Photo by Cassie Wieckert.

Florence Jackson does not like New York.

But then again, after being mugged and robbed there, who would?

Jackson, also known as Rocky Mountain Lady, now retired from a 12-year driving career, has traveled to all 48 contiguous states, Canada and Mexico.

She's earned numerous safety awards and worked for several companies, but her love for the road has never changed. She even seemed destined for the job, explaining, "I could never sit still. I found a job that would pay me for not sitting still."

In 1988, Jackson started her career hauling loads of such items as electronics, furniture, bananas and meat. She experienced the importance of correct temperatures, securing loads and washing out the trailers.

In 1990, Jackson and her co-driver were passing through the state of New York delivering computers.

While stopped at a red light during the night, a group attacked the two truckers. Jackson's co-driver suffered arm and head injuries resulting in a hospital stay, Jackson received minor injuries and their entire load of electronics was stolen, she says.

Jackson also recalls a happier experience.

"I was in Brownsville, TX. I had dropped off a load of meat somewhere in Mexico. I unloaded the trailer and then washed it. The border patrol dogs were sniffing my truck and then I got a knock on my door," Jackson says.

Officers approached Jackson and questioned her regarding the blood found in the trailer.

"I just told them, 'I was hauling meat!'"

Jackson never got lonely. She would often joke with other truck drivers on her CB.

"We'd keep each other awake. Truck drivers are like a big family," she says. "I think most of them would agree with that."

"It was beautiful," says Jackson. "I got to see the seasons change. I got to see the country. I got to meet some really nice people. It was a pretty cool job."

Jackson's family lived in Roanoke, and that's where she called home. After retiring due to knee problems, Jackson remained in the area.

Though Jackson is no longer behind the wheel, her son has continued the family tradition of trucking that started with Jackson's grandfather. Several family members through the past and present have driven hundreds of thousands, and in her uncle's case, millions of miles across the continent.

Jackson has enjoyed volunteering at the Huntington County Senior Center for the last five years. She also enjoys doing puzzles and listening to truck tapes.

"I still can't sit still. I still like to roam," says Jackson. "I wish I could still be out there driving."